First opened in West Seattle where the historic Blake’s Bakery once stood, William and Heather Leaman continue to make history daily with one-of-a-kind creations. With more than 20 years of experience in pastry, bread, and chocolate, and as the captain of the 2005 Bread Bakers Guild Team USA, where he led his team to victory at the Coupe du Monde de Boulangerie (World Cup of Baking), William Leaman’s Bakery Nouveau has become a Seattle icon. “We are going to take it to the next level as far as product and variations go,” William Leaman says proudly.
Christopher Donka, operations manager at Bakery Nouveau, explains that new technologies and advancements are being introduced at the bakery to enhance precision and productivity.
“What I’ve been paying attention to while reading different publications and following ad links are more advanced multi-use depositors, different slicing/filling operations for cakes, and specialty decorating tools, as well as specialty chocolate manufacture,” he explains. “Since we started our own chocolate bar production, we’ve also started looking more at wrapping and packaging applications.”
Some of the technology the bakery uses in shop involves a programmable depositor for variety cookies, a multi-use automatic tempering machine for chocolate, a batter and filling depositor, and blast chillers.
“We’re looking at the possibly of some different shapers for dough products (while not new or advanced at all, a roll divider/shaper was a huge productivity boost/labor savings over the holiday season). We’ve definitely found a place for the use of different technological solutions in our shops.”
Donka explains that the different tools have increased productivity by improving speed on certain repetitive tasks – such as using a depositor to fill cake pans with cheesecake batter, or a depositor to pipe macarons or portion cookies. This frees up time for employees to do more in their production week. It also allows for a small team to handle the production needs of multiple stores or departments (which ties into profitability below).
“For us, being able to consolidate certain products into a small team has allowed the other production teams to allocate their labor more effectively and prioritize time on products that are better with more hands-on attention,” he says.
As for profitability, technological or equipment advancements help with reducing or better controlling costs in terms of less waste and less time or labor expense for the same amount of product. Consistency of product, such as cookie weights, layers of filling in a cake, weight of batter in cheesecake, etc., helps to dial in costs and set pricing, Donka explains. This also makes it easier to deliver a consistent customer experience, which is important for making good impressions and developing long-term customer relationships.
“There can also be a reduction in overall labor costs in a multi-store company like ours by consolidating component or product making,” he says. “For example, we have a pie press and it allowed us to replace the pie pan lining that was being done at all three of our shops during the holidays with a 2- to 3-person team at one location. We use the same press for quiche shells, creating a more consistent product across our locations.”
The cookie depositor is another example – a small team now makes all the cookies for all three shops, instead of each making and portioning out their own. Donka says that’s a huge time savings, and also an improvement in the employee experience with the removal of a lot of the repetitive hand work – which links back to productivity.
So, what are the biggest concerns or challenges facing the industry right now?
“While a little more intense than usual, it’s still labor and costs of goods,” he says. “Besides really having to keep an eye on costs, we’ve been dealing with supply issues – mostly delays in some of our specialty packaging due to shipping, but also in terms of ingredients. Some of the issues seem to be in the process of resolving, others have been on-off repeat issues. We basically continue to look at ways to increase efficiency while keeping up consistency and quality of products.”